Sertoma Club honored for Playhouse donation

STAFF PHOTO BY DAN BROWN Officials from the City of Aiken and Aiken Community Playhouse presented the Sertoma Club with a plaque of appreciation for donating the grant money to install a hearing loop system for the hearing impaired in the main theater. Pictured, from left, are Tom Varallo, vice president of sponsorship, Aiken Sertoma Club; Don Bartelmay, national president of Sertoma Inc.; Jerry Burns, Aiken Sertoma Club president; Fred Cavanaugh, mayor of Aiken; Lou Popouchado, Aiken Community Playhouse executive committee member; Dr. Mark Little, audiologist/Aiken Sertoma Club member; and John Klimm, Aiken city manager.

There are few things worse than being unable to see or hear what’s going on.

Especially when in a public place like the cinema or theater where sight and sound can often be muddled to those who might be vision or hearing impaired.

The Aiken Community Playhouse took a big step in assisting the hearing impaired last year with the installation of a hearing loop system in the main auditorium. The hearing loop system came courtesy of the Sertoma Club, who awarded a grant to aid Playhouse patrons in being able to better hear the performances.

“We wanted to take care of our patrons who would come to see a performance and not be able to hear a thing,” said Lou Popouchado, of the Aiken Community Playhouse Executive Committee. “What hearing aid services we could provide at the time wasn’t very good until the Sertoma Club was gracious enough to see that we had the hearing loop.”

With the rock concert population getting up in years, hearing impairment affects more people than ever before.

“This is a discreet and quality means of being able to hear everything in the room,” said Jerry Burns, Sertoma Club president.

A loop system is a wire that circles the perimeter of the theater and is connected to a sound system to assist those with impaired hearing, according to a brochure provided to patrons by the Aiken Community Playhouse. The loop emits a magnetic, wireless signal that is picked up by the hearing aid when it is set to the telecoil setting. The loop system consists of a microphone to pick up the spoken word; an amplifier to processes the signal, which is then transmitted through the final piece, the loop cable, a wire placed around the perimeter of the auditorium to act as an antenna that radiates the magnetic signal to the hearing aid.

“If the person wearing the hearing aid doesn’t have a T-coil, the Playhouse can provide headsets for our patrons to wear,” Popouchado said.

The Aiken Community Playhouse’s hearing loop system was installed by Triangle Hearing Loop of Raleigh, North Carolina.

“The key is the T-coil,” said Dr. Mark Litle, an audiologist and member of the Sertoma Club. “While digital hearing aids have improved over the last decade, they still do not restore hearing to normal. When a hearing aid is set to the ‘T-Coil’ setting, the hearing aid becomes a personalized speaker in the ear for the sounds that are picked up by the microphone of the public address system. Sounds are heard clearly, without distortion or background noise pick-up.”

Aiken Mayor Fred Cavanaugh presented a plaque of appreciation on behalf of the City of Aiken and the Aiken Community Playhouse.

“We are very appreciative of our relationship with the Sertoma Club,” the mayor said. “The hearing loop is an easy and very simple means of ensuring everybody has an equal opportunity to listen to, and enjoy, the performance.”

The theater in the Aiken Community Playhouse seats approximately 300 patrons.

“We’re very fortunate being a town of this size to have a venue like this,” Cavanaugh said. “The hearing loop is something that makes the whole experience here more enjoyable for all of our guests.”

Dan Brown is the government reporter for the Aiken Standard.